AFP, DOH allay Ebola fears

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ACTING Health Secretary Janet Garin and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang on Sunday allayed fears that the deadly Ebola virus may have reached the country when they visited Caballo Island to check on the condition of the quarantined soldiers who served as peacekeepers in Liberia.

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The move was seen by many as their way of dispelling fears that Ebola could have already entered the country after one of the soldiers contracted fever and was brought to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) in Muntinlupa City (Metro Manila) for treatment.

After several tests, the soldier was found to be free of the Ebola virus but was diagnosed with malaria.

While on Caballo Island, Garin, Catapang and several other military and health officials interacted with the soldiers reportedly without wearing any protective suit.

Col. Roberto Ancan, commander of the AFP peacekeeping operations center, confirmed that the visit was meant to allay fears about the possible spread of the deadly virus.

“We wanted to show that Ebola is not airborne, and can only be transmitted through direct contact [with the infected]. So we are here now, facing the soldiers without protective clothing,” Ancan said.

The AFP chief, he added, had a dialogue with the peacekeepers to assure them that everything is under control and that they should not be alarmed even if one of their comrades was brought to the RITM.

Ancan, however, stressed that while the officials interacted with the soldiers, no handshakes or any direct contact were made with them.

The 108-man contingent from Liberia arrived onThursday last week. They were immediately taken to Caballo Island for a 21-day quarantine period.

The 18th Philippine contingent from Liberia is composed of 108 members from the Philippine Air Force, including 24 members of the Philippine National Police and one Bureau of Jail Management and Penology personnel.

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